Don’t Breathe, directed by the great and powerful Fede Alvarez, is a horror film that I believe went under the radar in 2016. The plot of this film is as straightforward as it gets. Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are small time crooks, looking to move away from crime to restart their lives in sunny California. One day, these robbers decide to break into a blind old man’s (Stephen Lang) house, as they believe he has cash stored. However, they are in for a surprise. The old man is a retired, highly skilled army veteran who isn’t as helpless as he seems.
I looked up the budget for this movie. It is around 10 million USD, which is modest compared to other films of this genre. However, I am impressed by almost every aspect of this movie. Lets start with the plot; it was simple and digestible. Two of the three robbers (Rocky and Alex) were given strong backstories that made me sympathize for them. Similarly, the blind old man was also given some heartbreaking context. This challenged me to pick a side in the film; should I side with the robbers, whom despite committing an atrocious act, are doing so so that they could avoid partaking in crime in the future? Alternatively, should I be on the old man’s side, who, despite his perceived innocence, is also quite despicable (as revealed later on in the movie).
Don’t Breathe lies on the border between horror and thriller. There are no supernatural elements in the film, but there are jump-scares (used appropriately) and a few gory moments that put me on the edge of my sofa. Stephen Langs’ performance is also extremely believable an unsettling. His character is far from generic, and diligently makes use of his disability (blindness) to heighten his other senses and use his own house to his advantage. I enjoyed the techniques that this character used to outwit the robbers. I also applaud that the majority of the movie takes place in a closed, contained setting; it adds to its thrill. The last positive of this film is its attention to detail. For instance, a sequence is filmed entirely in the dark, and this is accurately reflected by the dilation of the characters’ pupils. There are many other examples of this “attention to detail” put to good use.
On the negative side, I was able to predict all the twists and turns that were going to be thrown at me; there wasn’t anything outstandingly surprising about this movie. However, I will say that this was one of the better horror movies I have watched recently (tbh I’m not a big fan of this genre). Its plot is simple, provides sufficient thrill and gore, and gives good context to its characters.